What happened to Fred and Rosemary West’s children: Almost 30 years after ‘house of horrors’ was found, STEPHEN WRIGHT reveals how some live in fear, others have built happy lives… while a few were cut down by fresh tragedy

For some three decades, Barry West had tried to escape the ghosts of his childhood.

As a schoolboy, he had been given a new identity and moved to a different part of the country – a place of safety – to help him bury the nightmare of his upbringing.

But the odds were stacked against him. And when his body was discovered slumped over a table by a mental health support worker, it seemed almost inevitable. He’d suffered for years from post-traumatic stress, anxiety, depression and long-term drug addiction.

Death at the age of 40 would have been a release from the horrors he witnessed as a child at 25 Cromwell Street, Gloucester, the notorious address where his parents Fred and Rose West slaughtered nine girls and young women including Barry’s older sister Heather.

His passing from an overdose in supported living accommodation was not a violent end like those of the poor souls who suffered at the hands of his parents.

But it marked yet another tragedy in one of Britain’s most shocking homicide cases.

It is 30 years ago this month that the West murders first came to light. On Thursday, February 24, 1994, police turned up at Cromwell Street with a warrant to search the garden for Heather’s body. Two days later, they unearthed a human bone.

The West family including all their children with Rose, far left, and Fred third from right

The West family including all their children with Rose, far left, and Fred third from right

I reported on the case extensively for the Mail – from those early days as more and more bodies were being discovered, through to the trial of mother-of-eight Rose at Winchester Crown Court in the Autumn of 1995. Her co-killer Fred had taken his life in a Birmingham jail on New Year’s Day that year, mistakenly believing his death would spare her prison.

I sat through every day of Rose’s seven-week trial. She was convicted of ten murders and told she would die in jail. It was a case which, for me, redefined the meaning of the word ‘evil’.

What the victims went through – how they were abused, tortured and raped before being killed and dismembered – was utterly terrifying.

Over the years, many books have been written about the West case and countless TV documentaries made. All have focused largely on the killers and those they slaughtered.

But there is another category of victim whose stories have not been reported so widely. These are the West children, brought up in the most depraved and dysfunctional family imaginable.

Before the discovery of Heather’s butchered remains under the patio at Cromwell Street in February 1994 – the moment when the true horrors of the house started to unfold – the Wests’ offspring suffered abhorrent sexual abuse, repeated physical beatings and shocking mental torment.

Barry West died in 2020 after years of depression and long-term drug addiction

Barry West died in 2020 after years of depression and long-term drug addiction

It was not unusual for Fred to force them to watch video recordings of their prostitute mother (who worked under the name ‘Mandy’) having sex with customers upstairs. Three of her daughters were fathered by her customers.

Here was a home where, when Fred and Rose were not killing, life revolved around debauchery and sexual abuse. In evidence at Winchester that sent a chill down my spine, a witness recalled hearing a child scream ‘stop it Daddy’ from another room in the middle of the night.

How could anyone raised in such a warped environment not be affected by it? How do you cope with being a child of arguably Britain’s most evil couple ever?

Make no mistake, each of the West children were victims. As was Anne Marie West, Fred’s daughter from his marriage to his first wife Rena. Nobody who heard her harrowing testimony when she gave evidence against her stepmother Rose will ever forget it.

Fred, who murdered Rena in 1971, repeatedly raped Anne Marie from the age of eight and made her pregnant when she was 15. And though she fled Cromwell Street, avoiding the fate of her dead half-sister Heather, her suffering did not stop.

Now 59, Anne Marie once gave a tearful, heartbreaking account of life with Fred and Rose in a TV documentary interview but she has not spoken publicly about her ordeal for many years.

Anne Marie was Fred's daughter from his first marriage

Anne Marie was Fred’s daughter from his first marriage

Her stepbrother Barry also managed to escape the family home, albeit as a result of social services’ intervention, but he was never able to shake off his appalling past. Now his harrowing story and those of some of his other siblings, who have tried desperately to rebuild their lives, can be told.

Barry John West, born at Gloucester Maternity Hospital on June 16, 1980, was named after Barry Island in South Wales where the family went on day trips. The Wests’ second son was just 15 when his mother went on trial for serial murder.

He was one of five West children – the others being Tara, Louise, Rosemary Junior and Lucyanna – taken into care in August 1992 after police and social services became concerned about their welfare.

The authorities acted after one child, who was being repeatedly abused by Fred, showed a school friend the wounds to her body after one particularly brutal assault.

Fred was charged and Rose was subsequently accused in court of aiding and abetting rape and buggery of a daughter. But the trial collapsed the following year after their children, in a sign of the complicated relationship between the abused and their abusers, declined to give evidence against them.

Stephen, the eldest son, and sister Mae, who is now a mother of two

Stephen, the eldest son, and sister Mae, who is now a mother of two

Nevertheless, those five children would never return to Fred’s and Rose’s care, and police stepped up inquiries into the fate of Heather, who had disappeared aged 16 in 1987. In time, this led to that search of the Cromwell Street garden and the discovery of her body.

As Fred confessed to more and more murders, police switched attention to the cellar, where further butchered human remains were found.

Fred and Rose had targeted not only their own children, but live-in nannies, teenagers in care enticed to Cromwell Street with the promise of a bed and companionship, and young women lured into the couple’s car — wrongly feeling secure because of Rose’s presence in the front passenger seat.

Some were kept alive for just hours, others for days during which, bound and gagged, they endured repeated sexual assaults before being murdered. Police found hooks drilled into rafters in the cellar, their use not hard to imagine. At least one victim had had plastic tubes stuffed into her nostrils through masking tape wrapped around her face.

By the time all this emerged, Barry had been given a new identity (which for legal reasons we are not disclosing) and moved to a new home well away from Gloucester.

The fates of the children 

Barry: Died aged 40 in August 2020 after years of depression and long-term drug addiction

Tara: Aged 46, one of three of Rose’s illegitimate daughters conceived with clients

Rosemary Junior: Started a new life away from Gloucester

Lucyanna: Went to university and now works as a therapist

Louise: Given a new identity but in intermittent contact with her siblings

Heather: Murdered by Fred and Rose and buried under the patio. Remains discovered in 1994

Mae: Aged 51, now a mother-of-two and lives in a secret location

Anne Marie: Fred’s daughter from his first marriage with Rena. Now 59 

As he moved into adulthood, he lived an itinerant life and was registered on the electoral roll at a series of addresses. He also spent time at Priory House, a mental health unit in the Home Counties.

His death – he was found slumped over the table by his support worker on the morning of August 28, 2020 – sparked internal investigations at the local county council.

Medical records revealed Barry had a complex medical and mental health history including an opioid addiction and a history of heroin misuse dating back 19 years. He had tried to take his own life in 2015 and there had been ‘many overdoses’.

The coroner ruled that he had died as a result of misadventure following ‘voluntary injections of pain relieving medication’ including morphine, codeine and pregabalin, an anti-anxiety treatment.

A family friend said: ‘Barry’s was a difficult and tragic life. He was a very complicated, unhappy person and was badly damaged. He was 40 when he died but it was like talking to a much younger, immature person.’ The friend added: ‘He never found peace, he never escaped the ghosts of his past.’

His elder sister Mae, who had not been taken into care, also found life after Cromwell Street very challenging. Her 2018 memoir, ‘Love as Always, Mum xxx’, laid bare her on-going anguish.

She described how Fred often put ‘hard core porn’ videos on TV for his children to watch – some featuring ‘mum and her clients’.

‘Dad didn’t make any secret of the fact he sometimes filmed her having sex,’ she said. ‘…I used to find it completely repulsive.’

She added: ‘We always knew about their interest in kinky sex: they never tried to hide it from us. They’d leave porn magazines lying around the house, along with bondage gear: masks, rubber suits, whips and the like. It wasn’t unusual for us kids to come across dildos, vibrators and other sex toys just lying around the house. It amused Dad, more than anything, to see how we reacted.’

Rose used to ask Mae to answer the doorbell when clients arrived and would disappear upstairs with them, sometimes several clients over a period of hours.

Yet she still has happy childhood memories, and reminisces about family holidays in the countryside. ‘My siblings and I all came to believe that, however strange and distressing things might be within the four walls of our house, we needed to stick together,’ she said.

Mae West wrote a memoir in 2018 called ¿Love as Always, Mum xxx¿, laying bare her on-going anguish

Mae West wrote a memoir in 2018 called ‘Love as Always, Mum xxx’, laying bare her on-going anguish

Today mother-of-two Mae, 51, lives at a secret location and remains in constant fear of being revealed as a West child. ‘The shadows of the past remain,’ she has said.

‘Knowing your parents are regarded by most people as evil beyond belief is incredibly hard to live with … I’ve found it very hard to deal with the assumption some people have had that my sisters, brothers and I grew up to think our parents’ cruel and bizarre behaviour was normal. That couldn’t be further from the truth.’

In her book, she added: ‘I still see [sisters] Tara and Louise regularly. The three of us are in intermittent contact with our other brother and two sisters, even though they’re scattered far and wide across the country, have new identities and are leading their own lives.

‘I know the abused can become abusers, and in my parents’ case that was true. I strongly believe that this doesn’t have to be the case. The cycle can be broken. My own children have grown up free of the terrible consequences of physical or sexual abuse.’

In a 2020 podcast her brother Stephen, who was born in 1973 and has not had an easy life himself, revealed he had not had any contact with his jailed mother for more than 20 years. He explained it was ‘important’ for him to cut his ties with her.

He said: ‘In 1999, she called with hate and was blaming me for everything. She said I should have died when I was born and all that sort of stuff. It was a disgrace.’

Fred and Rose with Anne Marie, Louise, Mae, Heather, Stephen and Tara

Fred and Rose with Anne Marie, Louise, Mae, Heather, Stephen and Tara

Tara, born in 1977, was the first of three of Rose’s illegitimate daughters conceived with black clients while she was working as a prostitute at Cromwell Street and at other locations.

One of Rose’s favourite haunts, which she frequented with one particular regular called Rosco, was the Tara Hotel which gave rise to the name she chose for her daughter.

Tara moved out of the Gloucester area, changed her name and has struggled to form relationships.

Speaking in 1999, Tara said: ‘I hate showing my tender side to men. I think it is a weakness. I pretend I am hard. I just can’t say “I love you”. I fear rejection because of my upbringing. I never said “I love you” to Mum and the love I gave Dad was just used by him.’

She had a string of broken romances behind her. ‘A lot of men just can’t handle the fact that my Mum and Dad are Fred and Rose West. I told one bloke and he literally ran out of the house. He was so scared.’

She used to visit her mother twice a year in prison and wrote to her frequently. She also met up with her brother Stephen and older sister Mae to talk about the past. ‘We don’t talk about the sad things. We try and remember the good times,’ she said in 1999.

Sometimes she used to see Barry and her two other sisters, Rosemary Junior and Lucyanna, who have also started new lives away from Gloucester. Lucyanna went to university and is now working as a therapist in a different part of the country.

Now 46, Tara was last known to be living in a neat semi-detached house in a quiet town in the North of England.

Three decades have passed since the horrors of 25 Cromwell Street were first revealed to the world. The story of the West children is one of very mixed fortunes. But what of their monstrous mother?

In the months leading up to her trial, while researching the background of the case, I was introduced to a Roman Catholic nun who had comforted Rose at a remand prison near Bristol. Sister Paul gave me a letter Rose had sent to her.

It gives an extraordinary insight into the mind of Britain’s most prolific female serial killer. Full of spelling mistakes, Mrs R.P West, as she called herself, wrote the letter at H Wing at Durham Prison where she was held in the run-up to her trial.

‘We have a lovely chapel and I have meet (sic) the chaplins (sic) who are all very friendly,’ she wrote. ‘It was great to go to church on Sunday, and to praye (sic) together with other inmates and to share the closeness of God with them. I have made lots of friends here and I’m never short of a kiss or a hug when it is needed.’

Of course, her supposed conversion to Christianity was a lie. She has never come clean about what really happened at Cromwell Street, or said whether, as many suspect, there are more bodies to be found.

It is 30 years ago this month that Rose and Fred West's murders first came to light

It is 30 years ago this month that Rose and Fred West’s murders first came to light

John Bennett, the highly respected ex-Detective Superintendent who led the police case, told my Mail+ True Crime podcast he believes Rose will take her secrets to the grave.

‘I doubt very much that she will ever say anything more than she’s already said, which is absolutely nothing at all,’ he said. ‘I think she is now… institutionalised. She’s quite comfortable with being who she is, and where she is, and her personal circumstances. There is no gain for her whatsoever to make further admissions or to assist anybody.’

And as her former solicitor Leo Goatley wrote in his 2019 book Understanding Fred and Rose West, she likes prison: ‘I know Rose accepted prison as the location of her being, as her domain and her domicile. The all-female environment also suited Rose’s lesbian preferences, as her various relationships (including with Moors murderess Myra Hindley) verify. She can sew and knit, prepare meals, adorn her cell, watch television make her cell space pretty much as she want its.’

As another landmark anniversary approaches in this most macabre of cases, will she reflect on her evil deeds – including the murder of her own flesh and blood? Probably not. For her, life behind bars at high security HMP New Hall in West Yorkshire – where a recent arrival is serial baby killer Lucy Letby – is good. How sickening it is to consider that she is probably the happiest of the surviving West family.

About 200 miles from her jail, there is a 19th century church in Monmouthshire with an unusual grave. It is here ‘in God’s acre’ at St Michael’s Church in Tintern Parva that can be found the final resting place of Heather West.

Her grave is adorned with trinkets, mementoes, flowers and icons including a stone hand-painted with her name. It has recently been scrubbed to remove old lichen and moss.

She is watched over by a carved angel and the dedication reads: ‘In our hearts, There lives a memory, Of a love, That once was ours.’ A further inscription bears the dates of her short life which ended in 1987.

But one thing really stands out: only Heather’s first name is on the headstone.

Minister Jan Pain said: ‘It is unusual for a headstone to have just the person’s first name and not their surname but in this case you can see why Heather’s nearest and dearest might want to distance her from any association with West.’

Heather’s sister Mae, who was in charge of her funeral, explained: ‘I didn’t want the name West used. To do that, would have defiled her memory.’

For Barry, that association with the word ‘West’ – and the memories it stirred up – was simply too much to bear.

Special Reporting: Simon Trump

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